Yatra Deaths : SC to Hear Petition on Sept 17

No plans of road construction, facilities for yatris will be improved: CS

Srinagar – Amid raging controversy on Amarnath road construction issue in the state, the Supreme Court of India has deferred the hearing to September 10, on account of non-availability of the bench which had heard the case earlier. Earlier the court was scheduled to hear the case on September 17.

“The matter has been mentioned by Ms. Vernika Tomar, learned counsel on behalf of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and it is pointed out that the matter is listed on 10th September, 2012 before this Bench. As the matter has been heard substantially by a different combination (Hon’ble Dr. Justice B.S. Chauhan and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar), it is desirable that the matter may be listed on 17th September, 2012 at 2.00 p.m before the same Bench”, reads an order passed by the Supreme Court on September 7 with regard to Suo Motto writ Petition 284 of 2012.

“In the meantime, parties are at liberty to file additional document / affidavit / report for compliance”, the order adds.

Meanwhile, the state government has reiterated that it has no intentions or plans of constructing a permanent road along the cave route.

“The rumours of the government preparing to construct a permanent road in the cave area are baseless, and do not carry any weight”, Chief Secretary Madav Lal said last night.

The top bureaucrat said that the case was coming up for hearing in Supreme Court and the state government would keenly observe the outcome of the hearing. “The Supreme Court had directed to constitute a special high power committee (SHPC) for devising the plans for Yatra, and the state government acted accordingly” said Lal.

He however was quick to add that there was scope for improvement in the arrangements and healthcare facilities for the the Yatris which is being looked into. “We have been improving the facilities provided to Yatris every year and this will continue in future also”, the Chief Secretary added.

On July 13th, while taking note of these deaths the Supreme Court had issued notice to the state and the central government apart from the Amarnath shrine board, seeking details of medical and other arrangements made available to the yatris. In its order, the court had raised seven queries for the respondents to answer.

The seven questions pertained issues regarding the yatra like medical facilities, essential amenities, waste disposal, critical healthcare, high casualty rate and allowing excessive number of yatris to visit the cave shrine at one time.

Subsequently, on July 20, the Supreme Court constituted a Special High Power Committee (SHPC) asking it ‘to visit the site, examine various facets and submit its suggestions in the form of a report’, in order to enable the court to pass appropriate directions. Without limiting the scope of suggestions by the SHPC, the supereme court had said, “The inspection by the SHPC and its suggestions should be aimed at protecting the interest of the yatris, ensuring proper management, due regard to environmental protection and ensure health care.”

The state Chief Secretary had been appointed by the SC as the nodal officer of the SHPC with the responsibility to presenting the report prepared by it before the Supreme Court. Subsequently, the SHPC comprising top officials of state and central governments apart from the security agencies visited the yatra route and the holy cave on July 28, to take first hand stock of situation, in accordance with court orders which had asked the committee to specifically take up the visit while the yatra was still going on.

Meanwhile, official sources said the SHPC has submitted its interim report to the Supreme Court of India and the final report is being prepared. The report should be ready for submission in time before the next date of hearing, they added.

Pertinently the hearing in the apex court comes up at a time when various Separatist parties and Civil Society have accused the government of concealing the plans of constructing a permanent road leading to the hilly cave shrine.

However Govt had come up with a clarification, saying that no directions of constructing a road in the cave area had come from any quarter.

“We haven’t received any such proposal or direction from any quarter.” State Forest and Environment Minster Mian Altaf Ahmad had told KNS earlier this week. (KNS)

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